Multitrack podcast recording with Virtual Audio Cable and Skype

UPDATE JULY 2017: Please note that while I am using Adobe Audition in the screenshots below, I no longer subscribe to Adobe CC or use Audition. These instructions should however work with ANY digital audio workstation (DAW) software that supports ASIO and ASIO4All. Reaper  by Cockos Inc. is a good choice. Another free and open source alternative for Windows is Ardour.

Being a long time Mac user, I needed to find a way in Windows 10 to record Skype interviews where my voice and the person on the other end each got recorded onto separate audio tracks inside of a digital audio workstation (DAW) such as Adobe Audition. Mac OS has the concept of an aggregate device where you can combine one or more sound sources into one virtual sound device. Utilities such as Soundflower also help make all of this happen on Mac OS. I struggled for several days until I finally figured it all out on Windows 10. My needs were very specific:

  • Record my voice on track 1 in a DAW
  • Record my Skype interviewee on track 2 in a DAW
  • Record all system audio, jingles, sound clips and music on track 3 in a DAW
  • Feed everything (my voice, system audio, jingles, etc) so the person on Skype can hear everything
  • Set it up so that I can monitor everything in realtime with no latency

I will try to be as detailed as possible while trying to keep it as simple as possible, but audio routing is a very complex subject. These instructions worked for me. If you follow them through, they should work for you too.

You will need the following to make all of this happen:

  • A Windows computer (duh). I’m using Windows 10 as my OS
  • Virtual Audio Cable (VAC) by Eugene Muzychenko. This software is not free and costs $25+ USD depending on the level of support you choose
  • ASIO4ALL - Universal ASIO Driver For WDM Audio. This is free
  • Skype. This will also work with Google Hangouts.
  • Digital audio workstation (DAW) software such as Adobe Audition, Ableton Live, etc. A very good cheap DAW is Reaper. A non-commercial license costs $60, but this software is amazing and very system resource friendly. It is one of the best DAWs out there. I’ll be using Adobe Audition for this tutorial, but you can use any DAW that supports ASIO. Audacity sadly is not a true DAW and does not talk to ASIO on a Windows system
  • Patience

Assuming that you have VAC, ASIO4All, Skype and a working DAW, let’s get started. First things first, you will need to create 5 virtual audio cables and 6 repeaters. Go into VAC Control Panel and create 5 cables (see below). Don’t change any of the settings. Just create 5 cables and you’re done.

Next, it’s a good idea to rename all of your cables. This will make it easier as you’ll know which cable is for what purpose. Go into the Windows sound panel and double click each cable to change the name. It’s important to note that when you change, for example, Line 1 under Playback devices, change the corresponding cable under Recording devices immediately afterwards. Change the cables to the following:

Line 1 = Skype In
Line 2 = Skype Out
Line 3 = System Audio
Line 4 = Monitoring
Line 5 = My Mic

Your sound settings should look like the this:

You need to make System Audio (formerly Line 3) the default playback device in Windows. This is important. When you playback sounds such as clips or a soundboard (or even a YouTube video), all system audio will route through this cable. You can leave your microphone as the default recording device.

Next, go into your Skype settings and make the following changes:

Microphone = Skype In
Speakers = Skype Out

It should look like this:

What you are doing here is routing your mic and all system audio through to the Skype In VAC. The person on the other end of the call will hear everything: you and all of your system audio. But wait, we need to make the proper connections now. This is where the VAC repeaters come into play.

Go into your VAC folder and start up 6 repeaters. You can find audiorepeater.exe under C:\Program Files\Virtual Audio Cable. You can run multiple instances with no problem. These are the settings in 6 blocks to represent each repeater:

In: MMX 300 (this is the name of my physical mic. Yours will be different)
Out: My Mic (this is a VAC, fomerly Line 5)

In: Monitoring
Out: MMX 300 (once again, this will be different for you)

In: System Audio
Out: Skype In

In: My Mic
Out: Skype In

In: Skype Out
Out: MMX 300

In: System Audio
Out: MMX 300

I’ll explain what each repeater does.

Repeater 1 feeds your physical mic signal into the VAC called My Mic. This is important because it will allow you to record just your voice into a separate audio track in your DAW. Without this VAC, then your voice will be mixed with your system audio such as your jingles.

Repeater 2 allows you to playback and edit your tracks in your DAW. This VAC (Cable 4) will be your main output in your DAW.

Repeater 3 simply feeds all of your system audio into Skype so that the person on the other end of Skype can hear all of your jingles and other audio such as music.

Repeater 4 simply feeds your mic signal into Skype. Just like repeater 3, your friend on Skype will be able to hear you. This repeater is like a redirect because the main mic feed is happening in repeater 1.

Repeater 5 allows you to physically hear what is happening in Skype on the other end. In other words, you’ll be able to hear your friend on Skype.

Repeater 6 simply allows you to hear your system audio. Anything you play, you’ll be able to hear. When you are not podcasting, this will be your main audio output that will allow you to hear stuff. Without it, everything will be muted.

Now moving onto the DAW. Go into your audio device settings and choose ASIO and ASIO4ALL device. This will be different from DAW to DAW, so you’ll need to dig around. This is what Adobe Audition preferences looks like:

There should be a settings option in your DAW, which will allow you to configure ASIO4ALL. So go ahead and click on it (refer to above image to see the settings button in Audition). In the ASIO4ALL settings panel, you should disable everything except for Virtual Cables 2, 3, 4 and 5. You technically only need inputs for cables 2, 3 and 5. Virtual Cable 4 must have at least output enabled, but I leave input on as well. It is very important that Virtual Cable 1 is not enabled in your ASIO4ALL settings in your DAW. Enabling this VAC will prevent Skype from working properly, and Skype will complain that there is a problem with your recording device. Your settings should look like this:

Latency should not be an issue because you will not be monitoring audio via the DAW. The DAW is simply to record and edit afterwards, which you will be able to do because of repeater 2. But if you wish to lower the ASIO buffer size from 512 samples to something lower, go ahead and do that. I leave it at the default: 512 samples.

Your track settings should be as follows (this is what Adobe Audition looks like):

Host (You)
Input: Virtual Cable 5-1 (or 5 1)
Output: Virtual Cable 4-1 (or 4 1)

Interview (Skype person)
Input: Virtual Cable 2-1 (or 2 1)
Output: Virtual Cable 4-1 (or 4 1)

Sound FX (Jingles, System Audio, Music, etc)
Input: Virtual Cable 3-1 (or 3 1)
Output: Virtual Cable 4-1 (or 4 1)

This is what it should look like:

Remember, the Line 5 VAC (a.k.a. My Mic) is you and you alone. Everything is getting properly fed into its own track. Line 2 is Skype Out, so that is your friend on Skype. Line 3 is your system audio, in other words, anything you play on your computer will be recorded onto this track while being heard by your friend on Skype.

It’s important to note that each VAC has 8 channels for input and 8 channels for output. So long as you always pick channel 1 for mono or channels 1 and 2 for stereo, you’re good to go. Look at my Adobe Audition track settings for one second. The input “[25M] Virtual Cable 5 1” means VAC cable 5 channel 1 because my mic is mono. The 25M is simply because of all the extra channels for VAC 2, 3 and 4.

When you do any editing in your DAW, everything will go through VAC 4 (a.k.a. Monitoring) so you’ll be able to hear any of your edits.

Cool. We’re all done. Hopefully this will help you out. Happy podcasting!!

 

New year, new website, new webhost and a fresh reboot

Welcome to my new website. It's a new year (well, relatively speaking), and I thought it would be best to do a fresh reboot and start all over from scratch with a new webhost (Squarespace) and new content. A few reasons for my decision:

  • My previous website was hosted on Github, and was Jekyll-based. While Jekyll is truly awesome, it did have some major drawbacks, mainly being that it was hard to blog and post content using just a web browser (yes, I do know about Prose.io). It just wasn't conducive from a work flow perspective to post regularly and efficiently, whether it be blog posts, images, videos, etc. As a result, I procrastinated because updating my site was a pain
     
  • I needed a platform whereby I could publish from any computer or device with ease. Since Squarespace is completely web based AND they have Android apps, it was a no-brainer. I am on several different computers and devices on a day-to-day basis (including being on different operating systems such as Windows, Mac, Linux, ChromeOS and Android), so having something web based was absolutely vital
     
  • Github only allows one to upload and store 1 GB of content. My future plans included posting up lots of media files (in the form of photos and audio files). I would have very quickly eaten up my disk quota / allowance with Github as I was already at 100 MB (with not that much in the way of media files). Of course, hosting files at Amazon S3 would have been a possibility, but then it would have been a different workflow (not the one-stop shop that Squarespace has to offer) and much more complex (not to mention the variable monthly costs of Amazon S3)
     
  • Unless you pay Github, your Github Pages repository is public. Not that big of a deal, BUT when I am working on drafts and such, I kind of want that to be private until I am ready to publish. By using Prose.io as a sort of make-shift CMS, your work is exposed to the world, finished or not

I'm looking forward to having some new content up this year in the way of articles, podcasts, screencasts and videos. Please stay tuned!

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Kayhan